28 OTC Medications to Stockpile in Your Emergency Kit

First aid is one of my passions.  I like knowing that I’ll be able to act during a medical emergency, even if a doctor is not available.  But there is only so far that knowledge can take you.  At some point, you are going to need medications to treat an ailment – which is why it is so important to stockpile OTC medications in case of an emergency.

Because there are so many different types of non-prescription medications you could include in your emergency kit, I’ve decided to break them down by purpose. Then I’ll give suggestions to which OTC meds fulfill this purpose.


Pain and Fever Medicines:

When it comes to pain relief and fever reduction, the main options are:

  1. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) – Buy here
  2. Acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin) – Buy here
  3. Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) – Buy in bulk here

There are actually a lot of differences between these OTC meds.  For example, aspirin is a great anti-inflammatory but can cause digestive issues. Tylenol isn’t as good at relieving existing pain, but is safer for children.  Ibuprofen is my go-to for fever reduction but not as strong as aspirin for relieving pain.

If you are unsure about which pain medicine to use, read this great article on the difference between pain relievers.

In addition, I’d also add these OTC pain relievers to the list of items to stockpile:

  1. Benzocaine (Orajel): Great for tooth pain – Buy Here
  2. Naproxen (Aleve): Good for headaches and inflammation – Buy Here

Diarrhea and GI Meds:

When emergencies occur, such as hurricanes and flooding, GI problems are very common. They occur because of contact with contaminated water.

To prevent this, it is very important that you have a stockpile of emergency water and a reliable water purification method.

In case GI problems do occur, you’ll want these OTC medications stockpiled:

  1. Pepto Bismol: This is a great go-to medicine for nausea, diarrhea, heartburn, indigestion, and upset stomach in general.
  2. Imodium: This medication stops diarrhea in its tracks. Now, you don’t always want to stop diarrhea (it is your body’s way of naturally getting rid of pathogens).  However, diarrhea can be deadly and there are times which warrant Imodium.
  3. Electrolytes (aka Rehydration Salts): I keep a huge stockpile of electrolytes in my first aid kit, and always take them with me into the wilderness. They work to quickly rehydrate you, such as after severe vomiting or diarrhea.  Since dehydration can kill, they are essential!

Wound Care Medications:

It is essential that you know how to treat a wound.  Even small wounds can lead to serious infections if not treated properly!

I suggest you read these posts about How to Treat a Knife Wound and How to Treat Burns.

To prevent infection and speed healing, you’ll need:

  1. Burn creamBuy here
  2. Antibiotic or antibacterial ointment (such as Neosporin) – Buy here
  3. QuickClot: Available as a powder that you can put directly on wounds or as a coated gauze, QuickClot acts as a hemostatic agent to quickly stop bleeding on larger wounds.


Cold and Flu Medications:

A cold or flu usually isn’t a life-or-death matter.  However, if SHTF and no doctor is available, a simple flu could be deadly.

You’ll want to make sure you have some fever meds (such as Ibuprofen) on hand to reduce temperature, as well as these OTC meds for relieving symptoms.

  1. Cough syrup (or make your own)
  2. Cough drops
  3. Vapor rub
  4. Decongestants (such as pseudoephedrine)

Skin and Allergy Meds:

We all know how important it is to bring anti-itch creams when going outdoors (my youngest kid always seems to trample through a patch of poison ivy!).

However, skin and allergy meds are equally important for your at-home emergency kit.

During natural disasters, your skin might come in contact with many hazardous substances.  There are chemicals from nearby factories, pathogens in sewage-tainted water, and even the risk of flotillas of stinging fire ants!

To protect yourself (and avoid a lot of discomfort), be sure to stockpile:

  1. Oral antihistamines: Good options include diphenhydramine (Benadryl), Loratadine (Claritin), cetirizine (Zyrtec), and Fexofenadine (Allegra)
  2. Anti-itch creams: These will contain antihistamines, steroids, and/or an anesthetic. If you aren’t sure which is right, please read this article about types of anti-itch creams.
  3. Fungal creams: For fungal infections like athlete’s foot and yeast infections, you’ll want OTC meds like clotrimazole, miconazole, and butenafine hydrochloride.
  4. Epi Pen: Absolutely stockpile this if you have serious allergies. Unfortunately, Epi Pens do expire quickly, so it can be quite costly to keep a stockpile.

Antibiotics:

Antibiotics are usually prescription-only.  However, there are some ways to get around this.  Some preppers talk to their doctors and are able to get a prescription for “just in case” antibiotics.

If your doctor won’t give you antibiotics for stockpiling, there are these OTC options (Disclaimer: Use at your own risk!):

  1. Fish antibiotics – read about how to use fish antibiotics for humans
  2. Natural antibiotics – Oil of oregano, goldenseal, garlic, and berberine are good choices. Read about natural antibacterial plants
  3. Homemade penicillin – read how to make penicillin here

Other OTC Medications to Stockpile

  1. Saline Solution: Good for cleaning out sinuses, wounds, and eye irrigation
  2. Laxatives: The sudden change in diet during an emergency can lead to terrible constipation. Laxatives will be welcome!
  3. Activated Charcoal: Consume in event of poisoning. Also good for GI ailments.  You can also make your own activated charcoal.
  4. Sleeping Pills: OTC sleeping pills can be used during emergencies to help counteract anxiety and stress. I wouldn’t ever recommend them for long-term use though.
  5. Immunity-Boosting Supplements: Some great examples are vitamin C, zinc, colloidal silver, Echinacea, ginseng, and probiotics.
  6. Potassium iodide tablets: These act as thyroid blockers to protect yourself against radiation poisoning. If you live near a nuclear facility, these should be in your emergency kit!

Want to learn more? Here are some resources on first aid for disaster preparedness:


Image credits
2001854500/ by Airman 1st Class William Tracy

Diane Vukovic spent her childhood roaming the woods of upstate NY, making brush shelters, backpacking and orienteering.

Now she is the proud mother of two adventurous girls whom she takes wild camping and teaches survival skills and self-defense. Learn more about Diane here.

First aid is one of my passions. I like knowing that I’ll be able to act during a medical emergency, even if a doctor is not available. But there is only so far that knowledge can take you. At some point, you are going to need medications to treat an ailment – which is why it is so important to stockpile OTC medications in case of an emergency.

Leave a comment

  1. Great list. I have been trying to research replacement OTC drug for a number of drugs that I am currently taking. High on my list are replacements for anti-clotting and heart rate reducers. I suffer from atrial-fibrillation. My current medications for that are sotolol and riboravaxin. Any suggestions?

    • Dk45,
      If your RX is not controlled, you could tell your dr you have prepping concerns ( say earthquake for CA, hurricane for FL tornado in OK… etc) ask them if they would mind giving you a stronger version so you can use a pill cutter and stay on your normal dose but still be able to keep the other half or 3/4s of each pill.

      For blood thinners ibuprofen is the strongest OTC or naproxen ask your dr if either of them could replace your normal blood thinners in an emergency. I have asperger’s syndrome which makes one intensely interested in one field of study ( medicine in my case) I have been reading and understanding medical journals since age 12. However, since I am also legally blind I didn’t go to medical school.

  2. You might want to do an article up on Tannin, one of the best survival medical chemical that you can make yourself

  3. I would add 3 items:
    First, l-glutathione ( for accidental Tylenol overdose after SHTF and it’s a great laxative in low doses if you don’t take it often. Warning if you take enough to treat Tylenol poisoning you will throw up and have diarrhea for a few days. Tylenol posoning should be treated in a hospital if possible but in a survival situation better to treat it yourself than die of liver failure but again This should only be attempted after SHTF or in a situation where you don’t have a safe option and have to pick the least unsafe one. Glutathione lowers body temperature too. So, be prepared to be cold especially if you take enough to fix Tylenol poisoning.

    I know about glutathione from experience. I mentioned that I am blind which makes it hard to read labels ( I have portable reader now that reads text from photos but this was before I got it… anyway my care mom did not realize that the stuff I was taking for the flu had Tylenol in it and gave me more on top of the flu syrup.

    I was given L-glutathione in the hospital for 3 days so I know about the side effects first hand.

    I am on RX pain medicine for chronic hip pain after a car accident. So,now as an adult I occasionally take glutathione for the as a laxative to conteract the side effects of opiates. 500mgs works in around 20 minutes and doesn’t cause stomach pain like traditional laxatives do.

    2nd item I would add is Dramamine.personally I would get both the less drowsy formula and the original one. The former is great for sleep the latter for nausea although if you have a bug it’s typically better not to stop the nausea unless you cannot keep liquids down. By the way if you cannot keep liquids down switch to ice chips only.

    Dramamine can be used if medicine makes you feel sick ( I take it with my migraine medicine).

    One last thing: the only medicine marketed for sleep that is OTC are Benadryl ( dyed blue and relabeled as a “sleep aid) and melatonin. When I was in high school my body just wouldn’t sleep for 2 weeks. I went to the doctor and I was told to try Benadryl. It worked fine and because I was terrified of having a repeat of the 2 weeks from Hell I took it every night for all for years of high school. It is safe for adults to use long term but it eventually stops working for sleep. Never give it to babies and for older kids it should only be used occasionally unless a doctor says to use it long term.

    • Thanks for the tips Nikie. Just to clarify this information is the personal opinion of a Primal Survivor reader it is in no way endorsed by PrimalSurvivor.net. Always consult with a medical expert if in doubt.

  4. I’d add guaifenesin expectorant to the cough/cold OTC meds. They are very susceptible to deterioration from moisture, so blister packs are best.

    They break up the gunk and make your cough more productive so they can keep you from having to cough so much that you’re very sore or even break a rib with bronchitis or pneumonia.

    If you do end up so sore or with a broken rib that has you avoiding coughing from pain, which risks getting pneumonia or having pneumonia get worse, don’t forget to clutch a pillow or something soft around your midsection to reduce the pain, then, when you do cough, don’t waste the effort on something puny, but really work hard to cough productively.

    Also, while you’re well, take time to learn chest percussion and postural drainage techniques.

  5. Clove oil is great for toothache pain, especially if you have a broken tooth. Dip a small piece of cotton in the oil and put it in the broken tooth. It tastes nasty but it works almost instantly.

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